Malignant ★★★½

James Wan Ranked
2021 Ranked

It’s true. As many have said before, this is essentially James Wan’s take on the Giallo genre. I already started rolling my eyes at one of the film’s first “horror scenes” where a shadowy figure haunts and eventually brutally murders the protagonist’s abusive husband. Wan shoots it the way he shoots most of his horror, in a flashy, operatic, and very clearly constructed way that leaves little true horror to seep through. His films are often filled with jump-scares and loud bass-thuds to signify the things that are supposed to scare us but don’t because of those very reasons and therefore, the artificiality of this particular scene almost threw me off right away. But then it slowly started to dawn on me what Wan was doing here. Overtly campy characters (more so than in his other films), overbearing musical cues, and a detective trying to hunt down a black-gloved killer… the story is basically set in stone. And the Giallo genre of all types of horror is perfect for Wan’s unsubtle sensibilities. This is exactly the kind of genre where the horror doesn’t have to be truly scary; it merely has to be fucked up (and fucked up it is! I’d be lying if I said this didn’t feature one of the best and most gruesome movie monsters in quite some time) and the visual element is there to highlight the film's odd and in this case even supernatural events. It must be said though that the film’s Hollywood budget is both a blessing and a curse, and the plot is riddled with horror cliches that harken back to all sorts of classics from the genre but the way Wan utilizes them makes for some undeniably great entertainment. Perhaps Wan’s previous output was meant to reflect something similar to this even though both the Insidious and Conjuring-franchises have always seemed to want to rake in money and scare people first and foremost, and as far as scaring goes, those films remain a very lame attempt, but seeing his latest effort, it might be fit to give them a careful reevaluation sometime in the near future.

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